Marshall Survey Associates

Marshall Survey Associates

Working together to expand innovation and realise future vision 

Symetri services provided:

  • IT Audit and support
  • Software skills training
  • BIM consultancy and gap analysis
  • Strategic consultancy

Meet Marshall Survey Associates

Marshall Survey Associates (MSA) are 3D scan and measurement consultants who have been pioneering new approaches to how surveyors, architects, engineers, and property consultants see things, for more than 30 years.  Their services cover measured build surveys, BIM modelling, rights of light surveys, area reports, topographic surveys, utility surveys, monitoring and visualisation/3D modelling.

MSA brings a fresh, modern vision to its work, applying objective and unconventional thinking to look beyond old habits and traditional measurement tools. MSA was the first consultancy in the UK to use 360° photographs for every project, taking reality capture to new levels of insight. The company’s prime objective is to provide the most accurate data capture and analysis possible enabling its clients to extract maximum value from sites, properties or developments.

Apart from its own continuous success in these fields, MSA plays a significant role in promoting, advancing, and disseminating skills across the construction sector, through mentoring schemes, and Continuing Professional Development as part of the RIBA CPD network. “We drive change,” says John Agar. MSA’s Managing Director, “providing solutions that many do not even know exist.” John delivers talks at the School of Architecture, in Bedford Square, London, and the MSA team is helping to develop a virtual design course aimed at helping construction sector professionals to use models and scan data.

MSA is regularly commissioned on prestigious and complex development schemes across the UK and abroad. Many are of such significant importance and impact that MSA cannot disclose its participation due to Client Confidentiality agreements. A snapshot of its expertise in action, however, can be seen from the three examples below:

1. Castle Howard – York

MSA was commissioned by Castle Howard Estate Limited to undertake the reality capture and measured historic documentation of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Using the very latest scanning and drone technology MSA has captured a comprehensive point cloud of the property that provides a detailed historic record of the current building structure, arrangements and condition. Drawings produced from this point cloud data will assist with the conservation, maintenance and management of the building for future generations to enjoy. Deliverables included: Reality Capture / Drone Survey / 2D drawings.

2. Piccadilly Circus

MSA was commissioned to work on one of London’s most recognisable, iconic properties located at Piccadilly Circus. Working for Landsec together with Fletcher Priest Architects and Erith, MSA has accurately captured and recorded the buildings forming part of the island site. Detailed 2D elevations combined with calibrated orthorectified images were used by our in-house heritage specialist to provide a historic record and context for the existing buildings. These, together with other 2D drawings and a detailed BIM model are being used to take forward planning and design. Deliverables included: Reality Capture / 2D drawings / Orthorectified Images/ 3D BIM Model.

3. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) - The Championships, Wimbledon

MSA has worked for the AELTC for several years providing measured consultancy for their main estate in Wimbledon. It is a privilege to collaborate with such a visionary client that has ambitious plans for the future. MSA has been able to offer a full spectrum of services including establishment of control networks, reality capture of the entire estate, utility surveys, monitoring networks and MEP documentation of their assets including Centre Court, No.1 Court, and the Museum and Millennium buildings. The information supplied provides the core foundation of design and development and informs the future vision for the estate. Deliverables include the preparation of 2D drawings and BIM models.

The challenge: Equipping the team with the best tools and resources to drive the best outcomes

Supporting the innovators
The relationship between MSA and Symetri goes back well over a decade. The two companies work closely together today with one shared goal: Keeping MSA in better than best shape in its technology, its skills, and its ability to adapt to changing standards and evolving industry expectations, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Mutual understanding has naturally evolved, step by step, to create an affinity between the two companies that John views as “integral to MSA’s future”.

Here’s how it all started…

Digging deep into the technology
Providing practical, commercially-based solutions, tailored to its clients’ exact measurement needs, differentiates MSA, and continues to reinforce its reputation as an invaluable development partner. This is not something that happens just because MSA’s people are good at what they do. Heaps of work needs to go on behind the scenes to make sure that the technology the team depends on is not just reliable, but is at the forefront of where technology can be.

When MSA undertook an annual review of its software licencing, it decided that dealing with the complexities involved was an area that needed a professional eye. Companies often find that – due to the evolving shape of their business and their staff complement, and the adoption of new software which sometimes coincides with the running down of using previous software – they end up being over- or under-licensed, or even running the risk of fines.

Certainty and best practice are important, and evaluating seats and usage against up-to-date licences can become a challenge. MSA asked Symetri to advise on its software license management.

When the two parties met, other aspects of MSA’s IT arrangements came into the discussion. John explained to the Symetri team that business growth at MSA was creating a situation where the possibility of data storage arrangements creaking at the seams was a concern; with 400 terabytes of data being stored, could the team take a look at how robust the storage facilities were? This was the start of an interrogation of MSA’s IT estate that instigated a complete reassessment of the current system, as John explains:

From an overall perspective, we thought that our systems were up to the job. We knew we could benefit from some upgrades, but had no idea that some fundamental flaws were present. As Symetri dug deep into the technology we had in place, they identified weaknesses that would certainly have created problems further down the line. They pointed out that our firewalls had not been constructed as efficiently as they should have been, for example, but this was just the beginning of the fresh and diligent approach they brought to the business.

The solution: Complete confidence

  • IT support: Improve, streamline, maintain

With issues around software licensing comfortably resolved and rationalised to reduce risk and minimise administration across MSA’s entire software portfolio (Adobe, Autodesk, and Microsoft), Symetri undertook an IT audit.

The audit involved an end-to-end evaluation of infrastructure – network, storage, power and UPS, and devices – and security. This resulted in a RAG status report: Red, amber, and green areas to indicate the need for immediate action (red), eventual action required (amber) and areas where all was well (green).

“Symetri were extremely thorough in the audit and they brought numerous areas to our attention where we needed to act fast,” says John. “What impressed me most about their approach was that it wasn’t just about fixing; they came up with so many ideas about improvements for the future that I really wished I’d had them involved in MSA’s technology needs way sooner.”

Symetri set about installing firewalls for greater protection, updating all machines, and rationalising storage, together with a future plan for continued storage improvements. New switches were installed, the Local Area Network was upgraded, and power supplies enhanced.

Other improvements were wide-ranging; including a complete re-lay of all cabling, improving the company’s wi-fi to enterprise-class, and collating data into one central repository, as opposed to the multiple locations in which it had previously resided, a situation that had made both archiving and retrieval more onerous tasks than they need ever be. Symetri also tutored the MSA team in best practice for managing data, doubling back-up speeds by segregating slow- and fast-moving data.

  • Skills acquisition and training: Ongoing know-how
    Whilst a certain amount of knowledge transfer took place through the IT project, MSA had other ongoing training requirements. From working with Revit, Dynamo, and 3DS max, to mastering the finer points of clash detection with Navisworks, Symetri has provided training and on-premise workshops for the MSA team.

    One of the courses provided was a BIM workshop to enable the management team to understand the preparations that MSA would need to make to gain BIM accreditation.

  • BIM: Ready to proceed to ‘Go’
    In pursuance of MSA’s goal of gaining BIM Level 2 accreditation, Symetri BIM consultants visited the team to undertake a gap analysis; looking at areas of focus to address prior to taking the next step.

Results: Not like any other relationship

John says that Symetri has become a ‘one-stop shop’ for MSA: “They know IT inside-out and with a focus on the needs of our specific business requirements but, beyond that, their broad service offering means you can rely on them for real, meaningful partnership. Not only are they strategic and proactive, but they also know how to deal with requirements that are outside the norm. One example was our office move.”

John explains an exceptional requirement that arose requiring a complete relocation of MSA’s IT: “In amongst all the streamlining work Symetri were on across our IT estate, we had an immediate tactical requirement with our office move. Everything they were doing had to be moved across and installed in an entirely different location to the one they had started on. This didn’t ruffle the team at all”. In just two days, Symetri moved MSA’s entire IT set-up from the old office to the new.

“Working with Symetri is a client-supplier relationship, but it doesn’t feel like one. Not like one I’ve ever had before,” says John. “When their account manager comes to our office, it’s like greeting an old friend. He has a deep and genuine interest in our business, and he knows everybody. What’s more, the whole team respects him.

The same feelings apply to Symetri’s technical consultant. What he did in reconfiguring the servers for our office move was a piece of art, very cleverly done. What’s more is it’s all now very easy to understand.”

What’s next?

MSA looks to the future with Symetri, manifesting contractually in a three-year IT support agreement, but extending into numerous other proactive areas. MSA is looking to gain BIM Level 2 accreditation, following its BIM gap analysis, and Cyber Essentials certification to reassure its clients that MSA’s IT and data is secured against cyber-attack. In addition, they are looking closely at more options in how to feed models into a game engine for easier and more intuitive manipulation.

“We’re depending on Symetri’s IT people in all these areas, as well as continuing their involvement in finding ever stronger ways of future-proofing our storage and back-up. Symetri are on the team to help us achieve our mid-term goals and bring our long-term vision to life,” says John.

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